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Research On Pre-Historic Female Hunters’ Remains Challenges Age-Old Gender Roles: Report

Pre-Historic Female Hunters

Back in 2018, research scientists at the University of California discovered the bones of a 9,000-year-old female teenager along with a well-stocked big game hunting toolkit in a burial pit high in the Peruvian Andes. Based on this, as well as further analysis of 27 individuals discovered at burial sites with similar tools, researchers have now stipulated that between 30 to 50 percent of hunters in North and South America during the period in question may have been women. The revolutionary findings have challenged age-old notions about hunter-gatherer societies that relegate a woman to the domestic sphere and leave physically strenuous activities like hunting to men.

Women Hunters Speared Big Game In Ancient Civilisations

The research team, led by Randall Haas, has published their findings in a journal called “Science Advances“. In 2018, the team unearthed the remains of six individuals in the high-altitude site of Peru’s Wilamaya Patjxa. Two out of these six individuals were deemed to be hunters based on the stone artefacts used for hunting that they were found with. Six months later, scientists at UC Davis identified one of the individuals as a female teenager, aged between 17 to 19 years at the time of her death. Her remains were also rendered the earliest hunter burial found in the Americas.

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This discovery intrigued the researchers who then went on to identify around 27 individuals – 11 females and 16 males – associated with big-game hunting tools at over 107 sites spread out over North and South America. Describing his team’s research process, Haas said in an email cited by The Indian Express, “We asked a rather simple statistical question: given a population of hunters in which, say, 50% were female, how many female hunters would we expect to observe in a random sample of 27 individuals drawn from that population?” He added, “When we did the math, we found that the range of theoretical proportions of female hunters that could explain the observed archaeological counts ranged between 30% and 50%.”

What You Should Know: 

  • Research scientists at the University of California discovered the bones of a 9,000-year-old female teenaged hunter in the Peruvian Andes back in 2018.
  • Based on this, as well as further excavations and research, researchers have now stipulated that a large percentage of hunters in ancient American hunter-gatherer societies were women. 
  • The research team was led by Randall Haas and has published its findings in a journal called “Science Advances.”
  • The study also claims to provide substantial evidence to support the idea of “ nongendered labor practices”.

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Deconstructing Age-Old Gender Roles

The study claims to provide substantial evidence to support the idea of “ nongendered labor practices”. Talking to the Indian Express about the study’s relevance in the contemporary world, Haas said, “The archaeological findings changed my understanding of how labour was divided among hunter-gatherer societies.” He also commented that the similar labour roles ascribed to men and women in ancient societies also point towards both genders enjoying a similar societal status. Consequently, as per Haas, many of the gender inequalities witnessed in today’s day and age have no biological basis.

Picture Credits: Matthew Verdolivo/UC Davis IET Academic Technology Services

Tarini Gandhiok is an intern with SheThePeople.TV